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Erick White

ABSTRACT

Anthropological studies of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist worlds continue to be strongly shaped by many of the theoretical presumptions embedded in the analytic models proposed by the earliest generation of scholars. The ability of subsequent theoretical developments in the discipline to influence analyses of spirit possession, Theravada Buddhism, and the relationship between them has been hindered in recent decades by the limited institutionalization of the anthropology of Buddhism as a shared, comparative research agenda. This article re-examines anthropological models of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist South and Southeast Asia in light of three theoretical developments in anthropology in the final decades of the twentieth century—the critique of culture, the rise of practice theory, and the historical turn. Incorporating these developments more fully will, it is argued, advance a more analytically robust and empirically nuanced framing of both Buddhism and spirit possession as objects of future anthropological study.

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Ritual Tattooing and the Creation of New Buddhist Identities

An Inquiry into the Initiation Process in a Burmese Organization of Exorcists

Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière

ABSTRACT

The Manaw Seittokpad congregation, an organization of Burmese exorcists with headquarters in Bago, presents some unique features, such as a rigorous registration procedure during the initiation process. Exorcism is linked to superhuman figures, or weikza, at the center of a religious domain often characterized as a form of Buddhist esotericism. Based on observation of rituals during this congregation’s annual conventions in Bago, the initiation process is analyzed with reference to an anthropological understanding of rites of passage and religious conversion. The article shows how undergoing these rites induces healed patients to enter a specific community formed by the members of the congregation. Furthermore, the acquisition of a new ‘truly’ Buddhist identity is understood as a process equivalent to an ‘internal conversion’. Finally, the contrastive use of ritualism is seen as a way to construct the practice of exorcism in the weikza domain as a specific ‘path’ within the Burmese religious field.

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The White Cotton Robe

Charisma and Clothes in Tibetan Buddhism Today

Magdalena Maria Turek

ABSTRACT

Contextualized in discussions around charisma as originally conceived by Max Weber, this article examines the case of Tsültrim Tarchin, a charismatic adept from Eastern Tibet whose everyday dress consists of a specialized garment, a white cotton robe. Earned as a mark of virtuosity in the Tantric tummo practice and worn as a sign of an ascetic lifestyle, this robe functions as a key instrument in Tsültrim Tarchin’s charismatic actions. More than a repository of power and beyond insignia that signify privilege or superiority, the religious garment I consider in this article does not merely channel the routinized charisma of the lineage. It also effectively augments the master’s personal power through the performativity of its symbolism, while its real potency lies in structuring all meanings within the master’s network of influence.

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Along the Lines of the Occupation

Playing at Diminished Reality in East Jerusalem

Fabio Cristiano and Emilio Distretti

ABSTRACT

Augmented reality enables video game experiences that are increasingly immersive. For its focus on walking and exploration, Niantic’s location-based video game Pokémon Go (PG) has been praised for allowing players to foster their understanding and relationship to surrounding spaces. However, in contexts where space and movement are objects of conflicting narratives and restrictive policies on mobility, playing relies on the creation of partial imaginaries and limits to the exploratory experience. Departing from avant-garde conceptualizations of walking, this article explores the imaginary that PG creates in occupied East Jerusalem. Based on observations collected in various gaming sessions along the Green Line, it analyzes how PG’s virtual representation of Jerusalem legitimizes a status quo of separation and segregation. In so doing, this article argues that, instead of enabling an experience of augmented reality for its users, playing PG in East Jerusalem produces a diminished one.

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Matthew Carey, Ida Nielsen Sølvhøj, Eve Monique Zucker, Younes Saramifar, and Louis Frankenthaler

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Co-constituting Bodyguarding Practice through Embodied Reflexivity

Methodological Reflections from the Field

Paul Higate

ABSTRACT

This article focuses on the training context of private military and security (PMS) contractors. The training they undergo varies considerably, though the majority of training providers offer instruction in how to work in armed close protection (CP) as so-called bodyguards of dignitaries or on convoy protection. Set against this backdrop, the article reports on two periods of ethnographic field research of armed CP training where the author trained as a bodyguard in the first, and played the role of dignitary in the second. The discussion notes the very particular ways in which security is co-constituted between training instructor, author, and student. Here, a form of embodied reflexivity is used to show how security is translated between actors. Acknowledging that security is mediated through time, space, and the body can help to explain the experiences of host populations whose security has at particular moments been jeopardized by these armed actors.

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Creative Intelligence and the Cold War

US Military Investments in the Concept of Creativity, 1945–1965

Bregje F. Van Eekelen

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the Cold War entanglements of the concept of “creativity” with the US military. The field of creativity studies came about after World War II, and the military was a vital site for the production of knowledge about creative thinking. Creativity emerged on the geopolitical radar, in terms of the acquisition of creative thinking skills, attempts to “think the unthinkable” (atomic futures), and the detection of creative citizens. Creative, divergent thinking garnered a renewed urgency with the Sputnik shock, which showcased that conformist practices in knowledge production would not put an American on the moon. Between 1945 and 1965, the concept of creativity—as something to be defined, measured, and stimulated—was framed as a matter of national security and an object of geopolitical concern. This ensuing traffic in knowledge between Cold War academic and military contexts has been constitutive of present-day understandings of creative, undisciplined thought.

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“Eyes, Ears, and Wheels”

Policing Partnerships in Nairobi, Kenya

Francesco Colona and Tessa Diphoorn

ABSTRACT

Research on policing in Africa has provided tremendous insight into how non-state actors, such as gangs, vigilantes, private security companies, and community initiatives, increasingly provide security for urban dwellers across the continent. Consequently, the state has been categorized as one order among many whose authority is co-constituted through relations with other actors. Drawing on our ethnographic fieldwork in the past two years, we highlight how the state police dominates security arrangements in Nairobi and asserts itself not just as one order among many. We show how, in various policing partnerships between police, private security companies, and residents’ associations, the state police acts as a coagulating agent of such practices. In order to elucidate this relationship, we utilize the “junior partner” model from the criminology literature and expand based on the community policing initiatives that in Nairobi act as the “eyes, ears, and wheels” of the police.

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Guarding the Body

Private Security Work in Rio de Janeiro

Erika Robb Larkins

ABSTRACT

Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the private security industry, this article focuses on the training of low-level guards, examining the centrality of the body and embodied experience to their work in hospitality settings. In a racially stratified society in which lower-class, dark-skinned bodies are often equated with poverty and criminality, security guards are required to perform an image of upstanding, respectable, law-abiding citizens in order to do their jobs protecting corporate property. Guards learn techniques of body management at security schools as part of their basic training. They also learn how to subdue the bodies of others, including those of white elites, who represent a constant challenge to their authority. Working from my own experiences as a student in private security schools, I argue for the relevance of an understanding of the body and its significations to private security work.

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Introduction

The Digital Age Opens Up New Terrains for Peace and Conflict Research

Josepha Ivanka Wessels

ABSTRACT

The arrival of the Digital Age added a new way to preserve memories of war and conflict. These developments beg deeper reflection on the role of cyberspace and how memories of conflict have become publicly and collectively owned, shared and mediated in the digital space. Cyberspace offers a context for the deposit of digital memorials for victims and casualties of war from any adversary in a conflict. The final workshop in a three-part exploratory series entitled Virtual Zones of Peace and Conflict is the basis for this special section, which deals with digital memory. The three articles were selected because they reflect on the role of the Digital Age in peace and conflict studies, and specifically focus on the intersection between online (virtual) and offline (physical) realities and how cyberspace forms an enabling environment for digital memorializations.